Avoiding Social Media Legislation

Monday, May 1, 2023

For Immediate Release:  May 1, 2023

Contact: Denise Cantrell – 573-751-1464

Avoiding Social Media Legislation

The 2023 legislative session is now just two weeks away from its conclusion. If you follow the Missouri political headlines, you’ve probably seen quite the uptick in stories from Jefferson City.

That’s because deadlines spur action. The next looming deadline is for the Missouri state budget, which has to be agreed to by both chambers and on the governor’s desk by 6 p.m. on Friday, May 5. Last week, following a lengthy debate, the Senate passed its versions of the appropriations bills that will fund the state’s various departments in Fiscal Year 2024. All told, it was the largest budget in the state’s history, totaling roughly $50 billion.

I’m proud of the budget we sent back to the House. With an unprecedented surplus available, the Senate’s proposal is an aggressive, yet responsible, blueprint to address necessary improvements across the state, utilizing these available funds without creating a financial burden for future generations. Notable investments include $2.8 billion toward fixing and widening Interstate 70 from Blue Springs to Wentzville, raises for teachers and increased funding for childcare.

One item I’m happy to share did not make it into this budget is the controversial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) language included in the House’s proposal that would have banned all state department spending on these initiatives. This language was removed by the Appropriations Committee as it reviewed and marked up the budget, a decision I supported. The language was then proposed once again as an amendment during the budget floor debate. I voted no on this amendment. I also want to take some time in my update this week to explain my vote.

In my opinion, the DEI language added in the House was more of a facebook “gotcha” moment than a serious legislative attempt. Many of my colleagues and I agree that DEI excesses need to be dealt with. However, I feel the added language forbidding the state from funding DEI programs or doing business with entities governed by DEI policies was outrageous. We couldn’t have paid the state’s light bill or telephone bill since those service providers have DEI policies in their corporate structures. Additionally, the budget process starts in the fall in the House. Rather than offer DEI language early so it could be well vetted, it wasn’t mentioned until the perfection of appropriation bills in the House in early April.

I believe we damage our effectiveness by constantly legislating based on the latest social media trends. While I can appreciate how social media allows users to participate in public debate on policy and issues, it can also be an echo chamber where issues are elevated through inflammatory and divisive language. Complex issues require time, study and discussion, which are all limited when such issues are added to legislation already on a tight deadline.

I look forward to further discussion on DEI, either over the final two weeks of this year’s session or in the future. I sincerely believe state jobs, contracts and money should go towards the best candidates, services and projects, and not be awarded in an effort to meet certain quotas or perceptions. I also believe the issue deserves an opportunity to be discussed through our normal legislative process.

Please feel free to contact my office in Jefferson City at 573-751-1464. For information about committees or sponsored legislation for the 2023 session, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Cierpiot.